Monday, June 4, 2018

Semley on Citizenship in France's Atlantic Empire

Laurelle Semley, College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts published To Be Free and French: Citizenship in France's Atlantic Empire with Cambridge University Press in 2017. From the publisher:
To Be Free and FrenchThe Haitian Revolution may have galvanized subjects of French empire in the Americas and Africa struggling to define freedom and "Frenchness" for themselves, but Lorelle Semley reveals that this event was just one moment in a longer struggle of women and men of color for rights under the French colonial regime. Through political activism ranging from armed struggle to literary expression, these colonial subjects challenged and exploited promises in French Republican rhetoric that should have contradicted the continued use of slavery in the Americas and the introduction of exploitative labor in the colonization of Africa. They defined an alternative French citizenship, which recognized difference, particularly race, as part of a "universal" French identity. Spanning Atlantic port cities in Haiti, Senegal, Martinique, Benin, and France, this book is a major contribution to scholarship on citizenship, race, empire, and gender, and it sheds new light on debates around human rights and immigration in contemporary France.
Praise for the book:

"Semley seeks to understand the intersection of citizenship, race, and gender within the 19th- and 20th-century French Atlantic empire. She does this through a series of engaging and well-researched chapters centered on important imperial events where the local and imperial intersect and where imperial subjects see themselves within both French and local identities. … As a whole, the work illustrates the complexity of race, citizenship, and gender in that they often worked together while they were also at odds. Many of the figures described in the book embraced the larger revolutionary ideals of citizenship, but then had to negotiate them within their local contexts. Finally, even as slaves became free and freed men became citizens, women had to wait. … Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above." -T. M. Reese

Further information is available here.